Anglicare Australia was formed in September 1997 and subsequently, many Anglican caring organisations around Australia adopted the name Anglicare. But the history of Anglican caring work began some 140 years earlier with the formation in 1857 of the organisation that was to become the Anglican Home Missions Society in Sydney, the predecessor to Anglicare NSW.
Caring agencies of the Church came together in 1983 at Gilbulla, south of Sydney for the first National Anglican Welfare Conference. At the end of the conference a manifesto was issued:
It is clear that many agencies are becoming politically alert…They want the cases (of neglect and need) addressed by both Government and welfare agencies…Yet we believe that the most basic of motives lies in our honouring the nature of God…The Church's welfare work is an expression of Christ's love in the world …The Holy Spirit creates a community of people which exhibits God's character of love, reconciliation and justice…Each act of reconciliation and wholeness is a sign of a new heaven and a new earth.
By 1988, after a series of annual conferences, the network of organisations took shape as the National Anglican Caring Organisation Network (NACON).
In September 1997, some 60 agencies agreed to form Anglicare Australia, a more tightly structured organisation incorporated under Victorian legislation, to replace NACON. Anglicare as a name had been used in Western Australia since the 1970's and its adoption at the national level in 1997 gave new impetus for Anglican aged care and caring work to come together under a common name and to work more closely together. The purpose of the newly formed organisation was defined in its constitution as:
To lead and support the Anglican Church in pursuit of the gospel imperative of justice and care."
In 2001, the Annual General Meeting agreed to adopt a new national logo and corporate colours and invited member agencies to also adopt the logo and colours. By the end of 2002, almost all agencies using the name Anglicare had adopted the new logo. Increasingly, Anglican caring work is being organised on a diocesan basis and there is now at least one Anglicare Australia member agency in each of the 23 Anglican dioceses in Australia. Interest in using the name has grown, with the name being adopted in the Diocese of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and in the Diocese of Melanesia. In 2004, Anglicare Australia welcomed The Selwyn Foundation from New Zealand as its first international associate member.
In order to fulfil the network's goal of placing Anglicare Australia in a strategic position to work alongside federal government, and other national church and welfare agencies, Anglicare Australia's national office moved from Melbourne to Canberra in July 2004.